Is Democracy the Best form of Governance?



Democracy has long been and widely praised as the best form of governance more especially the proponents coming from the Western part of the World. Democracy entails the full participation of the citizens on matters of concern to the country. Zambia having learnt from the Western World colonial masters has long adopted and lauded as the beacon of hope and a shining light in the way she conducts her elections.
Elections seem to be the characteristic that epitomizes what democracy stands for. Constitutionally Zambia has always held her elections with the body mandated to conduct the elections carrying a motto saying: Free and Fair Elections.
Looking at the 2021 General Elections and the number of petitions that preceded the elections, One is left to ask how free and fair are our elections?
According to Article 73 of the Zambian Constitution Amendment Act No. 2 of 2016 stipulates that
1. A person may file an election petition with the High Court to challenge the election of a Member of Parliament
2. A petition shall be heard within ninety days of filing the petition.
3. A person may appeal against the decision of the High Court to the Constitution Court.
4. A Member of Parliament whose election is petitioned shall hold the seat in the National Assembly pending the determination of the petition.
It is a constitutional right to seek redress from the courts of law on an election they feel was taken away from them. It must be noted that elections are not won from the courtroom but rather the electorates are the determinants of who wins.
How free are our elections and how effective is our democracy? In 2011, the Patriotic Front (PF) petitioned 50 Parliamentary seats that where won by the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). In 2016, the Presidential Election which was won by Edgar Chagwa Lungu was petitioned by Hakainde Hichilema. In 2021, the United Party for National Development (UPND) petitioned about 60 seats won by the Patriotic Front.
The Constitution Amendment Act No 2 of 2016 was lauded in it’s bid to end By-elections but was blind to the fact that a successful petition both in the High Court and Constitution Court would ultimately lead to the dreaded By-elections.
Over the last few days, the country has seen over 5 parliamentary seats held by the PF nullified for various technicalities provided in the Judgements. The general feeling among the citizens is that our democracy needs serious fixing. The borne of contention is that how can an election declared free and fair result in the petitioning and eventually nullification of some seats? At what stage does the free and fair come in? The constitution does not provide the timeframe when a Member of Parliament whose seat has been nullified has to have his appeal heard and get exhausted.
This has two sides to it. One it avoids the By-election and two it is detrimental has the Member of Parliament may end spending the better of their term in office frequenting the courtroom and not delivering to the electorates. This lacuna in the constitution needs to be corrected and give specific timeframe for all electoral queries being disposed off.
Based on the current circumstances in our country, development will continue to be a mere rhetorical talk because it is possible for Constituencies to continue having absent Members of Parliament because they always have to attend court sessions.
Judicial Reforms are urgently needed that are going to promote the better part of collective development over personal aggrandizement for those seeking the upper echelons of the corridors of power.
Otherwise democracy may just continue many parts of the country from seeing meaningful development.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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